Daily Digest: Houston mayor talks 2019 recycling contract, return of glass

Houston’s recycling program has been in the news a lot lately, often for contentious reasons. Last week, during the Municipal Waste Management Association’s fall summit in the city, local officials offered their own take on how everything has played out and what’s coming next.

In 2016, the city agreed to drop glass at the behest of Waste Management. According to Sarah Mason, division manager for recycling in Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department, glass has gone from comprising about 18% of the single-stream tonnage to as low as 4% in the latest audit. This shift led to a nearly 800 ton drop in the city’s average recycling tonnage per month. Mason takes this as a sign people are paying attention and using drop-off sites, though recognized some challenges with illegal dumping and contamination.

Bringing glass back was a key focus of the city’s 2017 recycling RFP and that will indeed be happening in the spring of 2019 when FCC Environmental opens a new MRF in the city. The protracted process behind awarding that contract — completed in Jan. 2018 — didn’t go unnoticed during the event.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, in remarks during a session on disaster planning and debris clean-up, jokingly said he’d “rather do an RFP on anything other than on this stuff.” While complicated contract negotiations aren’t uncommon in many cities, the subtle optics here were unique. Waste Management, which will be losing out on the contract in its headquarter city, had representatives sitting feet away as Turner outlined the perceived benefits of this move.

“…We ended up going with someone else and that state-of-the-art facility is now scheduled to open up in March of next year. Recycling will be returned along with a lot of other things,” said Turner. “I think the maximum ceiling on that is $19 per ton, which is about 30% lower than others in the marketplace, and in terms of our current agreement it will be something like 67% less. So it’s a big deal.”

If there were any hard feelings, they didn’t show. After, Turner posed for pictures with Harry Hayes (the city’s COO and outgoing MWMA president) and two Waste Management executives. FCC — which is currently headquartered in a nearby suburb and moving into Houston next year — was not in attendance.

SOURCE: Waste Dive